So many things depend on how you look at them.

Some things at work that seemed hopelessly negative.  People and situations, which weren’t getting better, are turning around in my little corner of the world.

Is this a result of changing my thoughts and attitudes alone?  I can’t be that powerful.

I wrote a 6 word memoir the other day.

“Gratitude: Allowing people to be themselves.”



Those eager beavers at Two Writing Teachers (can there really only be two? So prolific!) have put out a reflective post inviting readers to check up on the One Little Word for the year.
On Jan. 6 my rambling discovery draft included this line:

I think I need to give myself a place in the whirlwind.

So it seems I am doing so.

Distinguishing my own voice and sitting still to meditate has changed the way I look at — just about everything. Self care is eating healthy and so is exercise, yes, but self care is so much — so much more.

And this year my word is apposite. Moi.

Writing Group

 I waited all month for my first meeting with

Write away

Wed Sep 24, 2014 4pm – 6pm Pacific Time
Orchard valley coffee, campbell (map)
Laura Brown

Goal 1 Get a Writing Group

My very first writing group, outside of SJAWP.
Friends I admire and whose writing I love.
Teachers who want to keep their craft sharp.
Smart women who will give me real feedback.
Someone to whom I can be accountable.
Witty educators who have good gossip.

Going?   YES  MAYBE  NO

On Wednesday morning I got a text from Lorena.  We are new to the group although we shared a summer institute with the writers.  We had invited ourselves by text one afternoon last month while planning a pd.

“Oh no!” I wrote back when she said the organizer, Susan, was going to work with Chrissy at the university on their seminar.  The thought of no writing group, of my first one failing, felt terrible.

The photo from my little lime journal is a goal I wrote — the first note I made — in Anne Lamott’s writing seminar last spring.  Dear Anne, so funny but also absolutely truthful about the complications of drawing the Artist’s card, told us that day every thing she knows about writing.

And the first thing she said has hung out in my notebook for months undone.

Lorena, who was texting me on the day of the group meeting, offered to get together at Crema and write and talk.  I was at school multitasking but jumped at the chance, thinking she meant Wednesday.  That one tiny word, tomorrow, slipped past my notice.

I was so grateful she would meet that I began not to mind that the rest of the group cancelled.  After school I drove over to the coffee shop, enjoying the late afternoon sun.  I got an orange Italian soda, began reading a new book that arrived, and eventually noticed, no Lorena.

I was so convinced we were meeting Wednesday I didn’t look at our string of texts.  Instead I sent her the photo and asked if she was okay.  Ah hah, now I know why my first writing group meeting was only me.

It does say something.  It’s up to me to write.  And yes, I need the feedback.  I need someone, some trusted readers who will explain to me how my words affect them.



I Could Write About That

IMG_0445My writing life is stirring a bit and I’m noticing things inside events, small things that I could write about.

Tonight I’m putting some of them down, so that when I sit down at my newly organized and place official Writing Desk, I can take a topic and get a piece drafted before getting ready for school.

Part of the stirring is from co-planning and authoring a pd for writers workshop with my good friend Lorena.  She and I collaborate easily and sometimes share a brain or finish each other’s sentences.

The other part has to do with [see earlier post, What I Really Want] the growing commitment, like the irritation that makes a pearl inside a shell, to my writing life.  Since I am also actively using my imagination, [see post That’s My Story and I’m Sticking to It] and living as if I am retired, but still showing up and drawing my paycheck, I realized that I need to do the Important Things that people often regretfully put off until retirement.  Then often don’t feel like doing them.

So.  At the hardware store Saturday, on revision 4 of my attempt to devise a connection to my washing machine hose to run the gray water out into a bucket in my backyard, I was assisted by an OSH man in the plumbing section.  I could write about our collaboration.

I could write about that small moment coaching Evan after we did his 1:1 LLI benchmark read and write piece.  Paws.  Polar paws and the power of pausing.  [Sickening amount of alliteration, I know.]

The other day when I was going to my car in the school parking lot, watching an elderly, large man painstakingly move to (his?) car, a van parked by the curb.  As I drove out the parking lot he’d almost made it to the driver’s seat and I saw his walker left on the curb on the other side of his car.  Stop and help?  Ask are you all right?  Wondering if he has to drive himself down to Lucky’s for his meds?  Is he going to be okay in the traffic…

My mom telling me she wants to leave SF and move in with me.  Our dear conversation.

I could use this page of the blog like a notebook to go back and jot observations or little events that I could later turn into stories.  Or poems or essays.

Email to My Sister

My literary friends ask what plays I saw in Ashland. I sketch what to me is the perfect vacation: I enjoyed family time with laughs and good conversation, home cooked meals, walking and watching the countryside, reading books, sleeping in, a bout of rose gardening, mild weather, watching videos with ice cream and blueberries at intermission, and, generally, doing what I pleased.
There are moments from our visit with “youse guys,” memories that I can flip through like the slides that show all the angles in the house for sale which make the 1,100 sq. ft. 3 bdr. 2 bth. look palatial. Those memories, not the email updates I get from Trulia for having “liked” one property, deserve a bit of composing.
Some of those moments include: Phoebe’s patio antics, John on guitar with Peggy singing the words, roses and cows with Reilly rolling in the run-off, Jarod engineering my ballpoint pen, the menfolk with their heads under the hood of the stove, the cabbages and their applications, Dolores spotting the jackrabbit, Emily & Peg walking the evening garden, the rose intervention, Peggy catching on to Take Five, the bookstore cafe, text talk with my realtor, considering the contents of the Grange, banana peel tea…
I think this morning my favorite clip begins with driving with you, top down, back to the plant nursery to study Heavenly Bamboo and get top dressing for the pruned back roses. Enjoying the moving air therapy and the leisure to study grasses. When we looked at the difference between three varieties of the shrubs you wanted to recommend to Emily for screening her porch, I took a photo of the one you thought the best curtain. Then when I was emailing it to Em, with a brief caption, I asked you if you wanted to sign your name. You thought a second and said, “The Brown Sisters,” so I signed it that way. It felt really good and solid, like a pickup truck of satisfaction.
I stood there with you, typing, feeling the best of our traits in common: the love of horticulture and earthy living, caring for our mom and daughters, we two who have endured and come out clement for the most part, only slightly cynical because we’re smart, whose heritage sprung from farmers, orators, artists, and crazies loaning us the stamina and good sense to enjoy the simple joys of nurturing plant life — well, I can’t really say how much I felt in that one instant, although 116 words later I’m still trying. I felt I belonged. Accepted.

Those little moments when it all fits and makes sense are like the bale of compost that neatly slid into my Miata’s trunk, even though it looked like it wouldn’t. Wheel barrowing it up to the roses in ICU was simply icing on the cake, to use a trite phrase. It topped off a lovely little outing.


Merely marking my seat and arriving early in Corte Madeira for Anne Lamott’s Symposium on Writing has shifted my observation and thoughts.  Just thinking about writing or hearing an author I admire puts me in a frame for composing.

I used to have a fancy camera with a portrait and wide angle lens.  Whenever I took my camera on a walk, I noticed my brain begin to frame scenes and focus in a composing way.

Anne Lamott doesn’t teach often, so this is a rare, lovely occasion with a long wait list at Book Passages in Corte Madeira.  So glad I booked my ticket the moment I saw Anne’s post on FB and also delighted I drove up early.

My post was interrupted by a chat with a writer, a journalist, as we wait for the symposium to start.  The kind of writing Lamott does, we observed, after we exuded about what we loved about The Goldfinch is not the general kind of writing in the self-help genre.  It is so specific, so real and true to her life, that it speaks universally.  Of course I love her neurotic truth telling.

So, writing, talking about writing, anticipating a writing symposium with a writer brings my mind into a certain state, a focus.


2014-04-02 16.56.53Jess snapped a photo of orange tulips and made my birthday card, which fit perfectly on the end of the mantle with winter’s candles.

Just as the orange tulips drew her eye, so my card with the candles draws my eye in the Lafayette green living room.  Orange says something, which really isn’t springy, but inviting.

Today I’m Back in Focus

When I attempted to post yesterday evening, I was so weary that looking at the computer screen hurt my eyes.  And my mind was flattened.

Today, after a good night’s sleep, and the refreshing time at a reunion of fellows from last summer’s intensive writing institute (ISI 13), I bounced back. I’m excited about our new plan for a summer institute, Forwarding the ISI with metalanguage work based on Gray and Harris.  Reinventing PD and keeping some of the teacher writers in touch from last summer.

After the reunion, I drove to SF spending the  evening in Mom’s kitchen and dining room enjoying a sole dinner my former-chef daughter prepared.  It’s a belated birthday and time for us to emerge from our flu colds and winter blag and socialize.

I found myself in a lengthy animated conversation with Praveen about the future of education, and what the early proponents of online education have learned.

Now, not feeling like I have very much left, I wonder what moment stands out that I want to explore with a draft? What, besides a good night’s sleep and healing from the flu, brings me back into focus?  Some of it is having time away from the demands of work.  Some of it is where I go when I’m not wrestling with problems that need attention.  A change of scene, seeing old friends and a good meal are a soulful rest.

Then the next thing I need to do, like finish the April 1 presentation, and pay those bills, and the things I want to to do — like read more of Aimless Love, or the other books I’m carrying around — things don’t seem so daunting with mental rest and physical healing.  What a very long week it was with late night meetings all but Wednesday.

One thing that gets me out of focus is feeling side-swiped by people with their agendas who don’t really care much about what I’m doing.  Getting caught up in complaining really drains me.  Not having some stretches of unstructured time zaps my mind after awhile.  Leaving unfinished planning and having to go to a meeting, knowing the mess will be waiting for me when I return is tiring.

So, with that in mind, I’ll enjoy tomorrow morning with Mom, drinking tea and writing, while she has coffee and pours through the morning paper. A day of rest.




Today I’m glad I remembered I took a few “book talks” on my phone during Rob Dog’s Book Bag Celebration.
I hear, underneath the student’s message about the book, a young boy’s tentative change of attitude about school.

I know I am reading something into it, but my intuition is that our little LLI group has opened a door for Dan the Man, as I now call him. First it was a story about training the dog, Meli, from the series. Dan has taught his dog tricks and said more words to me about training his dog — they just poured out excitedly — than he has said to me since he came into grade 1 intervention midyear last, as a new student in our school.

Also, I re-grouped some children to make more compatible, correctly sized groups and I took Dan back through part of a level, which made him the “smart” one, or at least the with it one in the group, where he had known he was not keeping up with some of his “peers” in the other group.

So, we made a connection, he’s found some confidence, and he actually looks happy when he comes to group. I took his recent 97% accurate warm read at his instructional level, with a 6/6 in comprehension to his teacher. Not impressed. Not showing it to his parents at conference. Still insists I put in a word with the psychologist for finding out what’s missing. Testing for something she can’t put her finger on.

I think I did. It was confidence and connection.
I like to re-watch the video to “read between the lines.”

Wiggle Room

IMG_1066Everything’s coming up nasturtiums.  After I had to tell my principal that we couldn’t apply for a Family Literacy Project grant, we got some wiggle room.

Last year we did a high needs school professional development in writing project, which we will tie into the family literacy this fall.

It was the best-est birthday present.  As an interventionist, I long to converse and read and write with the parents.  I want to see the children as they show off their new skills.  I want the busy parents to know how important and appreciated they are.  I want them to be confident in prompting and talking about reading and writing.

In the windstorm of my day and the mobility of my flexible groupings I haven’t gotten to this parent piece yet.  It is going to happen now.